Cuts to music programmes leaving low-income students behind

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Poorer families in the UK are at risk of under-representation in the music industry as children are being priced out of learning to play musical instruments, a new report suggests.

 
Families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, earning less than £28,000, are half as likely (19%) to have a child learning an instrument than families who earn at least £48,000 (40%).

The figures from the Musicians’ Union (MU) also show that more than two in five (41%) of those from low-income families say instrumental music lessons are beyond their household budgets.

The educational attainment of parents also plays a factor in whether children will pick up an instrument, the survey of more than 1,200 parents of five- to 16-year-olds finds.

Nearly half (48%) of children who have parents who are educated to university level will learn an instrument, compared with one fifth (21%) at secondary school level, the data shows.

The government needs to urgently review its offering of instrumental music tuition in schools to ensure access to music for poorer children does not die out, the MU has said.

David Arnold, a composer who has scored James Bond films, Independence Dayand Godzilla, said it is very unlikely that he would have had his career without the free music tuition at his state school.

Mr Arnold, who grew up in a working class family where neither of his parents played an instrument, said: “To deny people who cannot necessarily afford it the possibility of trying is criminal.

“Because what is going to be left is the only musicians – or players, or writers – we are going to hear are rich ones, ones that are able to afford it.”

Stephen Williams, a state school guitar teacher in the valleys of South Wales, says that when he started teaching a decade ago most schools offered musical instrument lessons free.

But now most schools charge around £80 a term per pupil for group tuition lessons. “I have had letters from 10 parents this year saying they are giving up because they cannot afford the lessons,” he said – a figure which is higher than average.

He added: “The quality of tuition is going down because schools are looking at costs. It is not just children being denied lessons – it is the whole sector being affected.”

Another recent study from the University of Sussex found that an increasing number of secondary schools have reduced or removed music in the curriculum for students in Years 7 to 9.

On the report, Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “With certain children priced out of learning musical instruments, we may well only be hearing the songs and sounds of the affluent in years to come.

“Those from poorer backgrounds will, unfairly, be increasingly under-represented within the industry. The data released today shows the extent of the problem – and we would like to work with government to address this issue.”

 

 

Creative Teaching & Learning
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